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shutterstock_111156467We think of conditions like asthma or cancer as health concerns, and of course they are. Physical inactivity, poor nutrition, and obesity are also health concerns, but they are economic issues as well. Here are three examples that illustrate our point.

The estimated health care costs of obesity-related illnesses in the United States total $190 billion per year, or nearly 21% of all U.S. healthcare spending. That’s money that could be spent elsewhere in the U.S. economy. At the state level, researchers found that the health care costs of State of Arkansas employees who were physically inactive and obese averaged $4,158/year, or 75% higher than the $2,382/year of their physically active, non-obese counterparts. In Utah, obesity-related adult health care expenses were estimated at $485 million in 2008. If current Utah obesity trends continue, obesity-related adult health care expenditures in our state will total $2.4 billion in 2018. To put that number in perspective, it is 19% of the total budget for the State of Utah in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014.

Much of the cost of health care in Utah is paid for by private-sector employers and by individuals, but a significant portion of those costs is paid for by the State and Federal governments. This means lots of taxpayer dollars are presently being spent for preventable conditions like obesity. It doesn’t have to be that way. If Utahns are willing to become more physically active and make healthier food choices, the money saved by governments can be put toward things dear to our hearts – like education. The money saved by private and nonprofit employers could be used to expand their workforce or increase wages.

Preventable chronic health conditions account for 75 cents of every dollar spent on health care in the U.S. Utahns know how to a respond to a challenge. Utahns can lead our nation in driving down the human and dollar cost of preventable conditions and diseases – by being more active and eating better.